Furious residents point the finger for failure

Malcolm Cooper reader flood pictures
Malcolm Cooper reader flood pictures

ANGRY residents have accused the Environment Agency of failing to protect their homes after suffering flooding for the third time in four years.

People living in Butchers Lonnen and a section of Newgate Street were hit by floods in 2008 and again in 2010.

But following work to the Cotting Burn two years ago they felt reassured that their homes were safe.

However, during the deluge a week last Tuesday, water again flowed into homes, ruining items and equipment in a number of properties.

Some buildings in Copper Chare were also affected, while the collapse of a section of wall at Dawson Place meant even more properties were badly flooded and residents will be forced to live elsewhere for months.

James Cullen, who lives in Newgate Street with his wife and two sons, said: “The flood water came in through the door at about 5.30am and we had no warning.

“It was at a higher level than in 2008 and 2010 and has totally ruined the garage and kitchen — only the garage was affected two years ago.

“All three cars can no longer be used and the cookers, fridge, freezer and other units have had to be thrown out.

“The works on the Cotting Burn two years ago haven’t done us any good and something needs to be done to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

“Environment Agency workers have been out to check the height the water reached and they told me that they’re planning to put a camera in the underground section to see if there was some blockage as they couldn’t understand why we got flooded, but Wellway didn’t.”

The water ran down to Copper Chare and by 6.45am, Margaret Cail’s living room was completely flooded.

“In 2008 it came to the door, but thankfully didn’t do a lot of damage, but this time everything downstairs was ruined,” she said.

“I couldn’t believe how bad it was and I’ve been told that I could be out for up to six months as the drying out and repairs will take some time.

“I don’t think we will be able to sell our homes after what has happened, people will not want to take the risk.”

Ann Smith, of Dawson Place, is currently staying in a B&B and will soon be living in alternative accommodation. She does not know how long she will have to wait before she can return.

She said: “I had a lovely little home, but now it has been devastated. If the wall hadn’t collapsed, I don’t think we would have been flooded. The water came rushing in from all sides all of a sudden. I got some towels to try to deal with it, but it couldn’t be stopped and all my furniture was damaged.

“There are so many things to sort out, such as the gas and electricity and council tax as I won’t be here for a number of months, and it’s very difficult when you are on your own.

“Although it wasn’t as bad in 2008, I still needed to make an insurance claim and I’m now worried that my premiums will rocket up and I won’t be able to afford them.

“Everyone has been really helpful and one of my neighbours is storing my clothes. I’m also grateful to the police and fire service for their support on the day.”

Fellow residents Alan and Brenda Pringle have also been forced out. They are staying with relatives in Pegswood.

Mr Pringle said: “It got into the wardrobes and appliances and our carpets are soaked. We couldn’t get out because we would have let even more water in and so we had to wait for it to go down.

“We only had time to take the bottom drawers out and then we were standing more or less helpless watching our house flood.

“It’s not an experience anyone wants to go through. We’re grateful to our neighbours for their support, they couldn’t have been better.

“I don’t think enough work was done on the north side of the burn two years ago and hopefully this will be addressed as part of the flood defence scheme.”

The Environment Agency had embarked on a series of improvements to the burn after surveys found that parts of it were near to collapse.

But while work was under way, disaster struck when an open culvert flooded several homes in Butchers Lonnen and Newgate Street during heavy rain in Spring 2010.

A roof section of the culvert had been removed, leaving an open hole in the area affected.

The organisation responded at the time by saying that if the project had not taken place the whole culvert could have collapsed, putting hundreds of properties at risk.

Of the latest incident, a spokeswoman said the water overtopped the burn’s banks partly because of a partial blockage of a culvert and partly down to the intensity of the rainfall.

“Officers are inspecting the Cotting Burn again to check for debris that could cause blockages and a flood risk to the town,” she added.

“Contractors will also be inspecting both the upstream and downstream culverts to see if any significant debris has collected there since the flood waters have receded.”